Three killed after cruise ship, Costa Concordia, runs aground off Italy (VIDEO)

At least three people were killed overnight Friday when a large cruise ship ran aground off the coast of Italy, the BBC reported.

Two French tourists and a Peruvian crew member were dead, according to a rescue operation official. Around 40 people were injured and another 50 are still missing, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

More than 4,000 passengers and crew were on a trip around the Mediterranean when the Costa Concordia hit a reef near the Isola del Giglio, off the Tuscan coast, about 10 p.m. local time.

Police detained the ship's captain, 52, for questioning and further investigation of the incident. The capitain has 11 years of experience working for the ship's owner, the Associated Press reported.

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The 290-meter-long vessel was listed at 20 degrees when the accident occured, with panicked passengers scrambling for lifeboats, or jumping into the water.

There were mixed reports concerning the death toll, with Reuters earlier reporting that six people had perished.

However, a senior Tuscany-based government official, Grosseto prefect Giuseppe Linardi, later told Italian media that there are three confirmed dead. Authorities fear the death toll may rise.

Witness accounts said that passengers were eating dinner when the ship hit the reef, and that the lights had gone out following a loud bang.

One passenger, Mara Parmegiani, told Italian media there were "scenes of panic, like on the Titanic":

"We were very scared and freezing because it happened while we were at dinner so everyone was in evening wear. We definitely didn't have time to get anything else. They gave us blankets but there weren't enough."

Several hours after the incident, several hundred people were reportedly still on board the ship, waiting to be evacuated.

This morning rescue teams were going from cabin to cabin in search of survivors, the BBC reported, adding that along with Italians, there were 500 Germans, 160 French and a few dozen British nationals aboard the vessel.

Survivors who did not reach lifeboats were evacuated from the Costa Concordia by helicopter, or with the help of other nearby ships, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the Italian coast guard.

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It is understood that passengers were being taken to the island of Giglio, where they spent the night in schools, homes and local churches.

Before the tragedy, passengers on Friday had traveled from the Civitavecchia port, near Rome, and were due to dock in Marseille after stopping in Sicily, Sardinia and Spain, the BBC reported.

There is said to be a 30-meter wide hole in the side of the ship, but a coast guard official, Francesco Paolillo, told Agence France Presse it was too early to say what had caused the accident.

"We think this happened as a result of sailing too close to an obstacle, like a reef."

Italian Cruise Ship Capsizes, 3 Dead

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